In this concluding part of my series to identify the best putting surfaces in Norfolk, we look at the top 5 greens in the County and discuss why they are so good.
If you missed part 1 of the blog covering positions 10 to 6, you can find it here.
5. Thetford Golf Club – 16th hole
The 16th at Thetford has already been given the title of best short hole in the county in an earlier blog. Part of the reason for this accolade has to be given to the design and quality of the green.
For most players, this 160 yard hole will require a short to medium iron. The putting surface is surrounded by heather, sand and bracken to form a sort of island oasis. Visually stunning from the tee, and made more so by recent clearance work to allow better views through to the remains of Thetford Castle, it is however an intimidating prospect given the penalties for a stray shot.
The green compliments the hole perfectly. Quite small in size to ratch up the fear factor from the tee, it forms a punchbowl to allow the well judged tee shot or greenside pitch to feed towards the hole. Whilst offering enough scope for the ‘Club Championship’ penal hole location, the normal location will offer golfers the chance to use their imagination and the contours to have short birdie opportunities or a chance to slave an heroic par.
4. Hunstanton Golf Club – 9th Hole
In recent years, the putting surfaces at Hunstanton have been restored to their former glories when they were recognised as some of the finest in England.
Quick and wonderfully true, all of the greens here are a pleasure. The best example, however is to be found near the far end of the course at the Par 5 9th hole.
Large in size by Par 5 standards, this surface is located on a shelf between a dune on the left and a drop-off to the next fairway on the right.
Although overall it is a big green, the significant false front makes any aerial pitch shot difficult to judge and favours a low running approach. Wonderful bunkering, contours and fescue prevent the lucky bounce from a pulled approach finding the target.
With a number of options for pin locations, this green offers a fun challenge at the conclusion of a great hole.
3. Royal West Norfolk Golf Club – 3rd Hole
Our first visit to the quirky and time ignoring links at Brancaster takes us to the short par 4 third hole and its amazing green.
Part of the challenge here for the first time visitor is the surprise factor. After the opening couple of holes that (aside from the shared fairways with the 17th/18th coming in the opposite direction) offer good quality but fairly standard links fare, players that have successfully popped their tee shot over the corner of the out-of-bounds on the third are left with a seemingly straightforward pitch to the green.
Little do they know. The putting surface is blind from the fairway, with players taking aim at the top half of the pin. The narrow slip of a green is angled across the player from front right to back left and sits like a sort of volcano top with steep drop-offs on all sides. Not forgetting, of course, the contours on the surface itself.
This is fantastic, fun, quirky, bonkers design that remains unchanged (and all the better for it) for well over a century.
2. Royal West Norfolk Golf Club – 13th Hole
We remain at the venerable old North Norfolk links at Brancaster for number 2 on our list.
By the time that golfers reach the 13th tee at Brancaster, they have played a couple of the more mundane holes to recover from the highs of the dramatic closing holes on the front side. Feeling calm and settled therefore, the sense of positive hope is increased by the wide vista and short yardage of the 13th.
Wide open and with just a slight kink to the right near the green, this is seemingly a perfect birdie opportunity. Not so quick! The narrow green is angled such that any tee shot missing the fairway either left or right, even if it is within 30 or 40 yards of the surface, will find it very hard just to hit the target at all.
Once on the green, the severe contours can lead to a 3-putt in exceedingly easy and quick time and from very little distance. A truly strategic short par 4, this hole is all about the green and creating the right angle for the second shot.
1. Kings Lynn Golf Club – 2nd Hole
For the best green in Norfolk, we return to the West of the County and the heathland gem in Castle Acre just outside the market town of Kings Lynn.
The tee shot on this short Par 4 must be threaded through the narrow avenue of trees and judged to around 200 yards to avoid running out of fairway.
From here the fun begins! The approach is played over a valley of dead ground to a putting surface designed in traditional, but severe, Redan style.
The original redan green is found at the 15th at North Berwick, and the 2nd at KL follows the template to perfection. Angled right to left with a deep bunker following the path of the green to its left hand side, the green itself is severely contoured from right to left meaning that any putts from the ‘bail-out’ area on the right of the surface are very,very fast and infact almost impossible to stop close to the hole.
The top 10 greens in Norfolk have taken us around the County and incorporated a variety of Par 3, 4 and 5 holes. Although half of the greens are sandy links based examples, parkland and heathland choices also feature.
One thing that all of the greens have in common is that they fit perfectly within the context of the hole – this is part of great course architecture. It is clear from the list that the architect has the most options when designing a short Par 4 – requiring only a pitch approach allows the design to allow for a very small margin for error and severe penalties for missing the target.
Note: For architecture geeks, a short trip across the Norfolk border into Suffolk to visit Royal Worlington and Newmarket Golf Club is essential, for here you will find nine of the best green complexes in world golf.